Kids in Between: Exploring a Unified Strategy for Child Protection in the Americas
November 3, 2011 - 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Lohrfink Auditorium at Georgetown University's Rafik B. Hariri Building
ISS-USA works to reunite children and families who have been separated by crises related to immigration, human trafficking, and family conflict. Our reunification work dates back to WWII when we responded to the crushing needs of European refugees searching for surviving relatives. Today, we are especially concerned about the needs of children from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean who migrate throughout the Americas. Without the love and protection of their families, the children too often become victims of prostitution, gang and drug violence and other crimes.
Governments alone cannot solve this problem. Nor can under-sourced and overburdened child welfare systems. While there is a network to protect these children throughout the region it must be strengthened. ISS-USA, in partnership with Costa Rica, is working to develop Costa Rica as the hub in the region to assess the magnitude of the problem, reunite children with their families, and ensure that all children have appropriate family care. By reuniting children with family, we will prevent them from becoming victims of crime, or entering a life of crime.
Vulnerable children, separated from their families, cross the borders of the United States, Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean by the thousands every year. They face abuse, exploitation and lack of basic care from loved ones, often falling victim to crime or turning to criminal activities themselves. Many of these children fall through the cracks of the child protection systems on both sides of the borders they are crossing because of the lack of a coordinated system to care for them. We must find ways to increase the capacity of child welfare systems in countries from where these children come and in the countries where these children go.
U.S. authorities apprehend more than 40,000 children a year at the border with Mexico. Nearly half of these kids are designated as “unaccompanied” meaning they lack the care of a parent or appropriate adult guardian. In 2009, the year for which the most up-to-date data is available, more than 15,000 of these children were immediately returned to Mexico, regardless of their country of origin and with no thought given to what awaited them.
Regional movement of unaccompanied children in Mexico and Central America pose genuine concern for child protection experts. The International Organization for Migration estimates that as many as 20,000 children move between Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras annually. Despite efforts to safely repatriate these children, at least 3000 unaccompanied children still live – and try to eke out an existence – in the borderland between Mexico and Guatemala. The tragedy of these migratory patterns is that the most common reason children cite for leaving their homes is to reunify with family members who have migrated to another country. These transnational families are all too often unable to communicate or reunite.
There is a growing number of children placed in foster care in U.S. states who have family members in other countries, but who are never reunited with them because the child welfare system lacks the knowledge of how to search for family overseas or there are limited resources for international family finding. Planning for children within our borders should always involve looking for, and assessing, all family members, regardless of where they should happen to live.
It is only through the cooperative efforts of social service agencies in both sending and receiving countries that we can ensure that every child is provided with the protection and care she needs, and that families are reunited whenever possible.
We must work cooperatively to explore how we can expand government and private resources to correct these problems and to share best practices in child protection, support capacity building where it is needed, and encourage and facilitate communication and cooperation across international borders.
View our presenters power point presentations:
- Rebecca Davis
- Ignacio Goicoechea
- Phillip Goldman
- Maria Fernanda Garcia
ISS-USA is proud to announce that Georgetown University Center for Public and Non-Profit Leadership, The University of Maryland School of Law and the University of Maryland School of Social Work are co-sponsoring this important event. You can visit our sponsors' websites at:
Information for Exhibitors:
If you are interested in exhibiting information about your agency, institution or company at this conference please download the application below and fax it to Wendy Jeffries at 443-451-1230.